Saturday, August 6, 2016

Do not run away nor get attached to it

I just had a very amazing meditation session this evening. It was one of the best and shortest 35 minutes of meditation I've ever had. The theme of the meditation today is emotional pain. The abbot talked about the concept of emergency switch, where whenever we encounter an inconvenient situation, our brain immediately switches to emergency mode. For instance: when we feel itchy on our face or somewhere on our body, then we will react to it by scratching that part of surface, or when we are feeling pain on a certain part of our body, then our body will adjust to it by changing its position in the hope to kick away the pain. It's a similar concept when you feel angry, cheated, disappointed, so on and so forth.

One of the advices he gave on encountering this problem is not to switch on your emergency mode and neither to run away nor personalise it. Not to run away means that you don't try to deny its existence. Not to personalise it means not to let yourself sink in that sad or painful feeling. But instead you have to acknowledge that the feeling is there and be with it. When he asked us to meditate on the recent happenings in our life that gave us emotional pain, I could only think of one. During my meditation, many things started to resurface, like there was this flood of emotion in my mind. I could suddenly identify many events that are more recent that the one I initially thought. The emotional pain they inflicted on me were pretty intense. I tried to follow the advice, not to run away nor personalise it. But to acknowledge and be at peace with it. The best part is that the emotional pain slowly disappeared and in the end all of my grudges were gone. I didn't manage to get to the next ones, because the session was finished. But I think this is one of the greatest meditation revelations I've ever had.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Digital Archaeology

My DPhil supervisor, Alexy, is part of a team that for the last few months (years?) had been very busy with an undercover project, trying to capture images of important historical monuments that are under threat of destruction from the Daesh.

It is really well known that the Daesh wants to basically destroy everything, including ancient sites that are still around till these days. For whatever reasons they have, I don't want to dwell into that as it's probably not worth my and your time to find out. Anyway, the Institute of Digital Archaeology in UK together with scientists from University of Oxford and Harvard (as far as I can recall), came up with this idea of capturing 3D images of historical sites and monuments in Syria so that we will be able to recreate it in the future. They have to find volunteer photographers that were okay with being sent to the field, capturing 3D images with a simple, discreet and cheap 3D camera kit. The results are quite amazing and the quality of the pictures are really good. They were able to recreate the all of the details including the characteristics of the monument originated from the wear of time. All of the pictures were then uploaded online into the Million Image Database Project hosted by the Institute of Archaeology. I believe that all of these will be available online really soon.

One of the important historical sites that were destroyed by the Daesh is Palmyra. It was a 1800-year-old sites that had survived a lot of big civilisations wars and no one (probably) came close to destroying it and the Daesh did just that. When it was destroyed, everybody thought that this ancient heritage was lost forever. Thanks to this Million Image Database project, they managed to recreate the famous Arc of Triumph of Palmyra down to the finest detail they can have. The stone was then taken from an Italian Marble (if i am not wrong) and then carved using 3D milling machine on site. They were then transported to Trafalgar Square in London. Last Tuesday, I was there to witness the unveiling of this magnificent piece of art: the recreated Arc of Triumph of Palmyra. The recreated piece is a scaled down version of the real one because there is a weight restriction on the Trafalgar Square. Anyway, a lot of people came to witness the unveiling, the media was there, and the London Mayor: Boris Johnson, was there to do the honour of unveiling of the Arc.

It was truly a humbling experience to see one of the many instances where technology brings up the humanity in us. This project lights up the candle of hope for people, this time for the people of Syria. It's a symbolic gesture that violence can never win in the end, you can destroy all historical sites and kill people, but you can never destroy the bond that binds the Syrian people through generations.

Moments before Boris Johnson officially launch the Million Image Database

Before the arc was unveiled

The arc of Palmyra in the Trafalgar Square

Friday, April 8, 2016

An exemplary model of public governance

I was recently very interested in Jakarta's political scene. The current governor of Jakarta, Ahok, is a very unique example of a public leader that, I think it's fair to say, no one would have ever thought of appearing in Jakarta, let alone outside Java. He labelled himself as a triple minority: he's of Chinese descendant, he's a Christian, and he's not from Java. He's not afraid to be shown speaking in a chinese dialect to his mother when one of the TV station filmed his daily activities. He gave an interview in mandarin to a Chinese news channel. He's not afraid of ... basically ... (probably) anything.

Well, what I think is the most interesting of all is that he gave a very, I would say, exemplary example of a public leadership. With the election coming up in one year, everyone has been busy trying to rake up money and support from political party. But yet, he has decided to go for independent track, something that has never been tried before in Indonesia and he will probably be the first that may actually win a governor election through independent track. More importantly, as he has stated in a public interview, that he does not care if no one wants to elect him in the next election and he will keep working until the end of the term. He will work hard for the people and when the time has come and it turns out that he lost the election, then he will be okay with that. What's interesting is that an independent movement called Teman Ahok has been working so hard to gather support from the Jakarta people by collecting a copy of identity card and statement from everyone that he/she is supporting Ahok and his future deputy in the election. Collecting one million identity cards is not an easy task.  And yet, he entrusted this in teman Ahok, if they fail then (probably) that's it, he will be governor until next year. For him, if the people wants him to be the governor again, then the people will have to work hard to ensure that he gets elected and not the other way round. This is a stark difference from how the election has been carried out before, where the incumbent and the newcomers worked so hard to get the people's favour. 

This is an excellent example of a public leader that worked genuinely hard and honest for the people. And the people know and worked hard to get him elected again. He's my role model from now on. I learned so much from just looking at the way he handled problems. For me, he's more than just a role model, Ahok is the proof that Indonesia (people and mindset) has gone past beyond the old regime, that there is more than a bright future to Indonesia, that (undoubtedly) there are more people like Ahok that is genuinely working for the community and the nation. For me, this is a sign that there is a hope for Indonesia.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Macbook retiring soon?

The macbook pro I'm using right now has been accompanying me for almost seven years (6.5 to be fair..), and it's really getting really (literally) slow these days. With 4GB of RAM, it feels like it's going on the slow lane. I have been thinking of getting a new laptop lately, should I get one from apple? or should I get one from other brand?

Sunday, February 14, 2016

My thought on LGBT

I recently encountered someone's status update in facebook about LGBT. I usually refrain myself from discussing any controversial topic unless if I know I would have a proper discussion with the person. While there's nothing wrong with the status update and he's entitled to have his own opinion, someone commented that LGBT culture is not suitable in our country which is based on Pancasila.

I was really surprised when I read about it. Pancasila? I may not have a solid law education in interpreting Pancasila, but as far as I know, there's no principle in Pancasila banning LGBT. So please don't bring Pancasila into the story and say that it contradicts LGBT. Of course, if there's a state rule saying that LGBT should be banned, then it's fine, you can based your argument on that rule, but please, not Pancasila.

While I believe that whether LGBT can be accepted or not depends on the local community, I cannot accept if someone brought in Pancasila's first principle which is about 'Tuhan yang Maha Esa'. It's roughly translated to 'belief in one god' (not the exact interpretation). But where does it mention that it does not accept LGBT? I can't imagine why someone in LGBT community cannot have a god. Everyone is entitled to believe in the god he/she wants to believe. I'm pretty annoyed when someone, because of his personal belief, take the first principle out of context.

Of course, if you don't accept LGBT, it's fine. If your religion does not accept LGBT (which I think is rather unfair, since they do no harm to others), then it's fine. But don't impose it to others! The same goes to the LGBT community, you just can't force everyone to accept you especially in Indonesia.

Whether LGBT is right or wrong, whether the behaviour of the individual is right or wrong, is a matter of personal affair between the individual and the god itself. In my opinion, this is just too personal.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

January Reflection

As the official Oxford term is starting again next week, I can't help to not think about my blog. It's been a while since I wrote something here. I guess it has been a pretty busy and enjoyable time here in Oxford. It's so liberating to not have anything related to admission essay, application and scholarship in your mind all the time. I still remember when I first started working in NTU, I somehow thought of applying for a graduate school two months in. I guess that might be a sign that I didn't really like the environment there.

I think I spent three months at the end of 2014 writing my admission essay everyday after work. Halfway in, I got to do a Skype chat with my current supervisor. I still remembered that I was really sick at that time, but then I forced myself to do the Skype right after my work. It went better than what I expected. I was then sick for the two to three days following the Skype chat. Admittedly, I am a pretty slow writer and it took me some time to synthesise something for my essay. Then there came the waiting period, where to be honest, I couldn't really recall what I did during that time. It was probably the time where I felt like I needed a rest. Then there was this feeling where I felt that I may have not even passed the document selection stage because I didn't get any email from them during the week where I was supposed to get one. If I remembered it correctly, it was probably during the week when I was working quite hard at work as well. So I thought, if I didn't pass then fine. No problem. I never expected to go to grad school that early and I was probably aiming for the impossible, i.e. a totally different subject and applying to Oxford. At least I told myself that I tried. One thing that no one knew, is that I secretly regret never having even tried applying to school like MIT or Oxford in high school. I knew the chance was small because the competition was fierce, but I should have at least tried. And at that time, I thought getting into NUS is already the best I could have (as it turned out, NUS experience is not so bad after all, give and take).

The admission interview went pretty well, and it wasn't very hard. One or two weeks after interview, no news. And I told myself, it's fine. At least you got shortlisted for interview. Many people asked me what will happen if I didn't get it, I told them: life goes on, not getting in is not the end of the world. I remembered it was friday evening,  I just came out of my lab, tired, things were probably not working at that time, heading back home. I was just doing the usual routine, checking Facebook, email etc.

And then I saw this email and it seemed that the world around me suddenly stopped....
"Your Application for a Place on Our DPhil in Condensed Matter Physics Programme"
Things seemed to be going really fast afterwards, okay, I thought: this is it, either yes or no. I read the email and quickly (impatiently) skimmed through it. The first paragraph read
Dear Sandoko,

I am writing to let you know that the University considered you for a DPhil in Condensed Matter Physics starting in October 2015. We were very impressed by your application and attach therefore a formal initial offer letter, which details the conditions which you will need to meet to become a student of the University.
I was like YAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY! My first impression is: finally, something's good coming out of today. And then I realised that this is more than that, I got admitted into Oxford! Something I never really thought could be possible until that moment. I had a nice evening afterwards, I don't remember what I ate that evening.

Anyway, this is a pretty nice recollection that I wish to be written in this blog so that someday I can read this back and remember the nice memory.

As of now, I find that I have a plenty of time to do more things (but still not enough, I need to be more efficient in my time management). I hope that my knowledge can get to a decent level so that I can stop reading and spend more time thinking. Being in Oxford gives me a lot of opportunity to meet and interact with brilliant people from other subjects. I hope that I make use of this opportunity at its fullest.

I used to eat while watching movies or browsing Facebook. Now I put away my laptop and read The Economists to get the latest update from the rest of the world. Otherwise, I feel like an idiot when I interact to people from other subject. Yesterday, I went to a weekly meditation session in a Buddhist vihara in Oxford (my first time!). Surprisingly the place is quite nice and the meditation session is long enough that I think, for the first time, I managed to catch and hold my mind still for a while. It felt very blissful. I came and went away but you can feel it. And for the first time as well, I managed to meditate for 45 minutes straight and came out feeling that 45 minutes passed faster than I expected. It was awesome, I hope to maintain this practice in the weeks to come.

Oh yes, I went to Morocco for 5 days. It was awesome! I got to ride on a camel and spent a night in the sahara desert! For the first time in my life, I saw a sky so full of stars. I managed to spot at least three shooting stars as well! My travel mates were awesome as well! Will post the photos here next time when I feel like it.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Two months in

So far, everything is going pretty well. I'm starting to get used to how things are done here. I actually like it here very much. I stayed in a very small room in a house far from most of the place in Oxford. I wouldn't say that it's very far in distance but there's literally nothing much other than houses in my neighbourhood. It's pretty nice and quiet though. I would have to cycle through the park connector road, which is quite beautiful in the morning but pretty scary in the evening. There is always this very dark and narrow road that I have to go through every time I returned home in the evening. However, behind all that, because there's not so much light pollution here, I can see a lot of stars here in Oxford, clearly. It's always nice to look at the sky before I entered the house.

Things have been very different from my last two years in Singapore. When I first returned to France,  I have to admit that, even until this day, what I did last time was crazy. The learning curve was pretty steep and I kinda forced myself into the experiment just for the sake of getting something to write for my thesis. My work-life balance in NTU was not so bad but the whole year was pretty much occupied with writing essays for Oxford application and LPDP scholarship. So, I did nothing much interesting on the physics side. 

Now, then I'm in Oxford, I get to free myself from all of the things that had been bothering me last year, so I am really full time into my studies and research! I am also trying to learn new things as well and try to be more active in the Indonesian community here in Oxford. I hope I can contribute something for the community here. 

I'm not really in the mood to write actually, so I will probably stop here and write another time. There will be pictures next time, I promise...

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Post PK-36

By this time, I couldn't exactly recall my feeling and excitement post PK activity. Nevertheless, there are two things that I am going to highlight here:

First is the PK36 highlight video made by our own awardees. This is cool, watch it. Either watch it here or use the youtube link. Do remember to like the video! hehehe.

Second is our "album kenangan" or probably more commonly known as year book. But since we are not a class and the PK didn't last for that long, let's just call it PK36 memory. This time, it is in full digital edition! Inside you can find the profile of each awardees as well as an audio file for each awardee that you can then click and listen to their dream for Indonesia as well as why they are proud of Indonesia. Check it out!

Fast forward to early september. My work contract with NTU ended, went off peacefully. Returned to Medan to see my parents and family. Two wonderful weeks well spent in Medan. I am satisfied.

Fast forward three weeks, now I'm writing this from my room in Oxford. Things look great, the hospitality is better than I expected. Oxford is surprisingly a very nice and pretty city. Totally different from the impression I got when I visited this city two years ago.

Loads of stuff to do in the coming weeks. Signing off yo!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

PK36's Happening

It's certainly hard to describe everything that happened during PK. I can safely say that it's a multidimensional story (and a vector space spanned by several orthogonal vectors.. ). However, it made such a heavy imprint in my memory that I'd really like to write it here. Not trying to exaggerate it, I feel that my own experience in PK has shown me one side of myself that I, to be honest, have tried so hard to conceal it from myself all this while..

Anyway, off we go:

On the first day, we had to wake up earlier than most people because we stayed off the location and all of us were supposed to reach Wisma Hijau before 7am.

Things started to get a bit messy first thing in the morning and in fact the night before when there appeared to be a misunderstanding between us and the organiser. So, one week before PK, they sent us a very detailed list of stuff that we need to bring including our tentative schedule for the whole week. The need to bring stuff include: 2 long-sleeve formal batik, 3 formal pants, one polo shirt, 3 training pants (yes, three), etc. To be honest, I wasn't sure how we were going to wear all of these in one week. From what I imagined, they would want us to change several times everyday to suit the theme of the seminars. But as it turned out, not all of them were needed. According to the list, we were supposed to wear collar shirt. Since they never mentioned that it was supposed to be a long sleeve, one would safely assume that it was not necessary to find a long sleeve one. The reason why everyone thought so was because for the batik and other shirt, they specifically mentioned that it must be a long sleeve shirt. But anyway, it was a minor detail, since everyone can wear their batik also which is long sleeve or other long sleeve shirt.

Our first time entering the seminar hall was pretty memorable and exciting. Upon entering, we were greeted with this song, Selamanya Indonesia, which, I am damn sure, every PK participants (I guess almost?), will remember even after the PK finished. This song is good, TUNE UP YOUR SPEAKER VOLUME & LISTEN TO THIS NOW.

This song left such a deep impression on us because there was this routine called the class call. So basically, during certain times of the day and before almost each seminar, they would start opening the door for several minutes during which all the participants should start entering the seminar room. The cue for this was always this song. They would put this song on through the loudspeaker. It was so loud that it could even be heard from outside. Upon entering the room, we had to take a smiley sticker and stuck it on the corresponding box of the attendance list. When the song ended, the organiser would close the door and removed the unused smilies. Participants who did not manage to put or get a smiley would get a special sticker (crying icon). This implied violation of the pre-existing rule and according to them, it would factor badly into their evaluation. This was why, whenever we heard this song, we would hurry back to the seminar room. This probably didn't sound so bad, but when you had like 20 minutes to eat or you had to go back to your room to take something or you were doing something important and you suddenly heard this song, you just have to leave whatever you were doing and go for the smilies. You could gamble by timing yourself properly, making sure that you got back just in time to get the smiley (you know that last few seconds of the song..). Sometimes it was just not worth the trouble because your late attendance somehow affected the evaluation of the whole batch and your representative leader. The latter doesn't make sense for me.

Before the first session, we had an ice breaking session with the MCs from the LPDP organiser. The session was not so bad because everyone was still very much awake.

Our very first session was from Dr. Hamdan Zoelva, who was previously the chief justice of the constitutional court of Indonesia. He is very popular because he presided over the dispute that appeared shortly after the latest presidential election result was announced. His court finally decided that the election was done in a fair manner and Jokowi is the rightful winner of the election. His talk was very interesting. He specifically mentioned that our founding father had realised the importance of education. In the early 1900, the Netherlands realised that they had taken too much natural resources from Indonesia including forcing millions of Indonesia to work as slaves. So they decided to give back to Indonesia by practising the so-called Politik Balas Budi (politics of reciprocity?). They chose a few Indonesians and sent them to the Netherlands to further their studies. Little did they know that it would be these scholars that would turn their backs against them. These Indonesian scholars eventually became the founding fathers of Indonesia. Realising the importance of education, they specifically mentioned the importance of education as one of the primary lines of defence that protects our nation from external disturbances, in the opening paragraphs of the constitution of Indonesia.

"...Kemudian daripada itu untuk membentuk suatu pemerintah negara Indonesia yang melindungi segenap bangsa Indonesia dan seluruh tumpah darah Indonesia dan untuk memajukan kesejahteraan umum, mencerdaskan kehidupan bangsa, dan ikut melaksanakan ketertiban dunia yang berdasarkan kemerdekaan, perdamaian abadi dan keadilan sosial,..."
(Top) First session by Dr. Hamdan Zoelva, (Bottom) Still innocent faces :p

Next came the PIC of our PK, which is Pak Hendra. To be honest,  I'm not sure if I should regard him as a strict or easy-going person. Due to pre-PK's happening, which I shall not go into detail here, I had the impression that he is a very strict person. During the PK however, he sometimes looked very friendly and was able to change his mood instantly as he did during his first presentation. One thing that I could retain from his presentation is that the PK is not used anymore to decide whether the participants will get a scholarship or not. However, it factors greatly when the participants wish to continue to do PhD under the LPDP scholarship if we was previously admitted under a Master program.

It continued with a presentation from Pak Lukmanul and Bu Ratna, regarding the reimbursement process. The Q&A continued till late in the evening. This is one of the most important talks of PK, because it's about our livelihood for the next few years....*it's all about the money money money*

One of Indonesian most famous ambassador, Dr. Dino Patti Djalal, was supposed to give a talk as well but he canceled it at the last minutes for some unspecified reasons. It was unfortunate as this was one of the talks that I was really waiting for.

The formal session ended around 10 pm and we still have to continue to choose our representative leader, rehearsed for the official opening of our PK scheduled for the next day and then make a daily report of all the talks that were given that day. Everything ended sometime around 2am.

The next day, we had to wake up before 5 am because there was a class call for morning sports session as well.

The first talk cum official opening was attended by Pak Abdul Kahar, the LPDP director in charge of our educational fund and Dr. Mari Elka Pangestu, the first female Chinese-Indonesian to be appointed as a minister in Indonesia. Her talk was light and pretty enjoyable. Most of her presentation was drawn from her own experience as a student overseas. She emphasised that we as Indonesian students and especially LPDP awardees are responsible for promoting Indonesia. She gave a roughly 20 minutes talk and continued with a Q&A session of about 90 minutes I guess. She is a pretty good public speaker.  Next, we had a 2-hour talk by Pak Abdul Kahar on the general direction of LPDP. Very interesting, and I actually got to know more about LPDP after listening to his talk.

(Top) Dr. Mari Elka Pangestu, (Bottom) Our group in Batik costume, somewhat in weird poses

Group Photos with Dr. Mari Elka Pangestu

On to the afternoon session: the organiser announced out of the blue that the pantomime performance was to be rescheduled after lunch. You can't imagine the panic that ensued afterwards. To be honest, we had not really practised much, not to mention that the storyline was kinda finished one night before the PK began. I'm not surprised if some of us were annoyed by this sudden rescheduling by the organiser. But looking back, the organiser is not to be blamed as well, because not all of the speakers made it to the events, which meant that they had to make up some thing for us to do on the fly. Another interesting thing that happened to me was that my face had to be painted in white and red.  It was not planned at all which meant that whatever that appeared on my face had to be made up on the spot as well! I was supposed to portray a role of a bad man and so my face finally turned into a face of a joker, literally. It was my first time wearing a lipstick as well. It was weird!

In the evening we had a talk by the Ambassador I Gede Ngurah Swajaya, outgoing Indonesian ambassador to ASEAN. It was rumoured that he's going to be the next Indonesian ambassador to Singapore. It was a very refreshing talk with many new perspectives. It was pretty informative. As usual, he kept his talk short and spent the rest of the sessions answering questions.   Somehow I couldn't find any of his pictures taken during the PK. One of the things that I learned from this PK is that all the great and knowledgable speakers spent less of their time for lecture and more time to answer questions from the audiences.

Right after this session + some "drama", we were told by the organiser that we had one hour to pack because we were going out on an outbound session the day after. So, basically we had to sleep in the bus. When I first listened to that idea, I was like... finally....a proper time to sleep. And so I thought. It turned out that the outgoing journey was not so comfortable. I didn't get much sleep. We departed at about 1 in the morning. Reached the venue like, if I remember correctly, probably 5 in the morning. The place itself was said to be a military training camp. It was very cold and dark. I couldn't see anything. We were then led to a "military" camp. The journey itself was quite interesting as we had to walk through one small section of a forest, in the dark, without any light. One had to be careful. Had a very heavy breakfast, waited, slept a bit again. When the sun rises, we were called up and assembled in groups. Had some time for ice breaking game. Briefed by the person in charge. Worn a military apparel and taught to make our own safety ropes. It was pretty fun although to be honest I was a bit disappointed that they didn't schedule a rafting activity for us. We also had paintball for our last session. It was quite fun actually although I got shot twice, from a bloody short distance and it was very painful, honestly. The trace from the bruise is still around even until today (*teary eyes*). Everything was finished around noon, we had our group photos and then departed for wisma hijau. On our way out, I then realised that they actually brought us to Lembang, Bandung. What the heck. This is the first time that I was transported so far without realising it. haha. And to my surprise, the place is so near to Tangkuban Perahu, which I actually visited few days before. What a coincidence! The return trip took a longer time, we reached wisma hijau around 6 something. Fortunately, the return trip was more comfortable and I could actually sleep well. We had a session from the British council in the evening. Right after that, if I am not mistaken, we had some more "drama" with 10 levels up.
(Top) We-fies (Center)Paintbal session (Bottom) British Council

We had one of the most interesting days in PK on thursday. We, again, had to wake up very early in the morning for our sport session. Then still in our sweatshirt, we attended a brief talk by Jay d'Terrorist (self proclaimed: Prov. Zainal Abidin PHD, no typo there. Prov for provocator and PHD for permanent head damage). It was an inspirational talk with the main theme of Social and Creative Entrepeneurship (SCE). The highlight of this SCE is this: he gave each of us an orange and one water bottle, and challenged us to raise fund as much as possible within a period of four hours. We were grouped in five and were not allowed to bring anything except for our own identification card. All of the proceeds from this activity would go to the Menyapa Indonesia project. It was actually very fun and PK36 managed to break the existing record and raised about 8 millions rupiah in four hours. It was pretty amazing considering the fact that we could only bring oranges and water bottles! The next session was by Baban Sarbana. To be honest, I couldn't exactly recall his talk. The SCE session is just too awesome.

(Top) Group Photos with Jay D'Terrorist (Bottom) Baban Sarbana

The last session in the evening was by Dik Doank. It fell short of any expectation I had. I think the session was certainly weird for me. I certainly couldn't get his point about virginity and woman. Other people may disagree with me. I think one can still become a respectful lady while not being virgin. Some lost their virginity by choice and some were not, but no matter how it came by, one can still be a lady. Most of his presentation was about him being able to afford a large area that he eventually turned into an educational area for children even though he is not really highly educated as us. I guess I know what he was trying to say: not to be arrogant. Unfortunately, I certainly think that the message could be conveyed in a much better way. Furthermore, I don't usually get offended when someone tried to imitate old Indonesian Chinese speaking bahasa, but somehow this time I did get a bit offended, to be honest. And the last thing he told us to do, was to draw a tree. While it may reveal something about the personality of the person (maybe.. ask your psychologist friend), but he just didn't give enough arguments when he tried to judge some people's personality out of his/her drawing. It just didn't make sense what he said about personality and its relation to the part of the tree he drew or didn't draw. All of this sentiment, I believe, was triggered by his remark about woman and virginity. He also started the whole discussion in a weird way. I didn't know what happened that evening, but his session was either a total letdown or I totally misunderstood his message. I highlighted that very clearly in the evaluation form.

Friday Morning! We woke up really early in the morning to perform our morning ritual. We were supposed to play some traditional games that Indonesian people usually plays to celebrate Indonesian independence day. In the midst of our games, we were suddenly told to stop whatever we were doing and to enter the seminar room right away. Just when I thought we already had enough "Drama" from the organiser, they simply gave us more. Not to say that we were completely innocent, we did violate some of their rules. However, I think what they did after was unnecessary and downright demotivating. Nevertheless they had the final word and that was it. All of the pre-existing rules were removed (good), no more class call (I miss the song), no more smiley attendance list (good), no representative leader anymore (not good) and organiser's participation would be as minimal as possible (not good) and that would continued till the end of our PK's activity. This meant that we would be on our own till the end. I guess everyone was as shocked as I was. Looking back, can it be some sort of social engineering? Was it possible that they tried to impart some values on us? If yes, I felt that it could be done in a better way. I'm not sure about how other people felt, but it seems that having no rule seems to be more liberating for me. Everyone was still on time, and in fact we all somehow agreed to even come earlier than we usually did. It should have been done in this way from the beginning.

I can probably think of few reasons for which they tried to uphold their rules, for example the class call and the smiley, etc. It was made so that everyone made it on time. Having a seminar with the speaker already inside and a half empty room is not funny at all and it will reflect badly on LPDP itself. The obligatory use of name tags throughout the whole course of PK is understandable as well, so that we can be properly identified. The rules are respectable and reasonable. What I think was not right were the sanctions imposed by the organiser. I don't get how having few individuals violating some rules meant that we had to reelect a new representative leader. I don't see any direct relation between having a new leader and everybody making it on time. In fact, I felt that forcing us to reelect a new leader would result in more confusion and disorder. I think we did the right thing by agreeing to go against the recommendation of the organiser and maintained our existing chain of command. The organiser did the right thing by respecting our decision. This is probably not the whole story and I had no prior experience in managing big groups of people but at least this is my take on this.

Anyway, on to the next session by Dr. Boediono, Indonesia's vice president 2004-2009. He has a very calm personality, and seems to be quite easygoing. I was really tired at that point. It was probably an accumulation of everything that had happened for the past few days. I just couldn't really concentrate very well. We also had some aptitude tests after that session. That one, I clearly remembered that I was very sleepy and was one of the lasts to finish the test. I have no idea what my result is going to turn out.

We had almost all of the friday afternoon for our own contemporary art show. It was pretty fun and amazing to see all of the interesting and unique performances from us. I myself, screwed it up. Little did I realise that I was going to screw up even more the day after... I sincerely apologise to all of my teammates :( :(.. Despite everything that happened in the morning, we somehow managed to bond together with the organiser again during the performances. At the end of the performances, we somehow got up together and started dancing together ( did we? it was something that started it, I don't remember what it was, but somehow everybody was already on their feet). I guess everybody was relieved that the PK was ending soon and we actually had good memories about it despite the "Drama". Surprisingly, the organisers joined us and started dancing, in fact, it somehow culminated in us dancing our flashmob move and then the organiser showed us their super team's flashmob move as well. It was fun, everybody bonded together around the stage, it should be like that from the beginning. I am still searching for that video actually.

On to the last task, the closing events of PK36. It was supposed to be one few projects that according to the organiser, will deeply reflect the performance of our batch. This is the first time, the closing ceremony was held in Pusdiklat BPK in Kalibata as it was usually held in Depok. We were all getting ready for it. Nervous. Some started to pack up in order to depart early to the pusdiklat for the preparation. I went there as well but eventually returned back to Depok again. I somehow ended up only sleeping for only one hour prior to the final day because I had to pack up again. On to the next day, everybody was nervous, fortunately everything went well. We had a lecture by Dr. Hassan Wirajuda, foreign minister for Indonesia 2001 - 2009. The lecture was pretty good and entertaining actually. I guess in the end, everybody was happy. After the events, everyone gathered up for the last time for a heart-to-heart talk, before everyone went back.  *tears*

(Top) Our group performance (Bottom) Photo with Dr. Hassan Wirajuda

Not sure how I managed to gather some more energy to survive till the night. Went straight from Kalibata to Gading Serpong to meet kak Hendra Kwee, my physics olympiad mentor. We had some interesting conversation. Was told about their plan to organise international physics olympiad in Indonesia in two more years. Not sure how they will manage to find the money for that but I believe they will be able to pull it out and it is going to be awesome!

Okay, I should stop editing this post and start a new one.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Pre-PK36's happening

It's been a while since I wrote something here. Things have been pretty much going on a roller coaster the last two months. Where should I start? Wanting to write down all the things I've gone through and particularly express my feeling here.

Well, it all started with a WhatsApp message in one late afternoon asking me to approve a LINE group invitation. Apparently, it was an invitation to join a chat group consisting of LPDP scholarship awardees. So all the scholarship awardees that were recently admitted were grouped into several batches, each of the batches numbering to at most 130 people depending on the situation. Each of this batches would eventually go through a week-long activities called "Persiapan Keberangkatan" or more commonly called PK. The attendance of each awardee in the PK is obligatory, failure of which would result in the termination of the scholarship. I was lucky enough to get into the 36th batch, awesome batch.

The conversation in the chatroom became more interesting as more people started to join the group, jokes kept coming up, some of it were witty, some it were plain silly (but still funny). The first few days were pretty interesting because we had not been assigned any task at that time. I believe that almost no one at that time were aware of tasks lurking behind. I was in charge of one of the tasks in which each awardee is supposed to make a LinkedIn profile. Pretty easy task.  Among the many tasks that were assigned to us, the most notable one is the Menyapa Indonesia project.

Menyapa Indonesia (MI) is a community development project by the scholarship awardees themselves, meant to show our contribution back to the society. It was a small form of appreciation to the Indonesian people whose tax money has been partially used to fund our studies abroad. This time MI was brought to a poor village in Pandeglang area called the Desa Cikumbueuen. The villagers have been primarily living on their own agricultural output. There was no proper road resulting in the village being hard to access. According to them, the very bad road infrastructure has caused many problems including the very low quality of education there, hard to access health facilities, etc. The sewage During the rainy season, the road were in pretty bad condition making it almost impossible to use. Therefore MI decided to first prioritise the building of road infrastructure there. If I am not wrong, they have finished building the first 200 meters road there and still searching for more financial support to continue the road building there. I invite you to go check out their fundraising website, at and their Facebook page  for more information on the latest development of the project.

Anyway, because of the many tasks assigned to us, the few weeks before the PK itself was very busy. In the midst of submission deadline, I had to attend my own graduation ceremony and accompanied my parents during their trip in Singapore. It was a pretty short and nice getaway from all the hectic deadlines.

Back to the real life, one week before the PK began was pretty nerve-wrecking. I couldn't apply for a visa because the school has not sent me the CAS number.  Still couldn't get any accommodation in Oxford. In addition, I was initially clueless of how I can get to this venue called Depok as I have never been there before. Fortunately, my housemate planned a short weekend getaway to Jakarta and Bandung, coinciding with the Singapore's Jubilee celebration. Since they were renting a car, I just tagged along them so that the car can bring me to Depok at the end of the trip.

Trip to Jakarta and Bandung were also pretty fun. I went to Changi airport straight from work. Will post about this trip other time.

Anyway, straight into D-1 day, Sunday 7 August. Our group agreed to gather at a particular residence called the Margoni residence, which is actually very near to the PK venue. With the rented car, I started from Bandung sometime around 12 noon, thinking I would reach Depok sometime around 2 or 3 pm. Little did I realise that it was going to be one of the longest traffic jam I'd ever experienced. Bloody 5 hours on road. Luckily I decided to get something to eat for lunch. Anyway, searching for that Margoni residence was not easy. At that day, I was also made aware, for the very first time, that PHD also stands for pizza hut delivery... Anyway, started meeting new friends when I reached there. Thanks to Danur, my room mate in Margoni, that gave me correct instruction to reach the residence. People from different walks of life: university lecturer, high school teacher, economist, IT specialists, etc. I had for the very first time, learned my part in our Seni Pertunjukkan Kontemporer (Contemporary Art Performance, translated literally). We also started brewing some ideas about our own pantomime performance.

Okay, I decided to cut this post into several parts as it's getting too long. Before I close this, I can't resist to post the photos of our group. The name of our group is Jam Gadang (translated literally for Big Clock), which is an iconic clock tower in West Sumatra, particularly famous because for several reasons. Awesome people, awesome group. :)

I have no idea why I had my pose wrong. 

I have no idea why I looked like I was giving a magic show